Harris, C., White, P., Mohler, V. et al. 2020. Electroencephalography can distinguish between pain and anaesthetic intervention in conscious lambs undergoing castration. Animals 10(3), 428.
Australian sheep routinely undergo painful surgical husbandry procedures without anaesthesia or analgesia. Electroencephalography (EEG) has been shown to be a successful measure of pain in livestock under a general anaesthetic. The aim of this study was to compare this EEG model to that of conscious lambs undergoing castration with and without local anaesthesia. Sixteen merino crossbred ram lambs 6 to 8 weeks of age (13.81kg ± 1.97) were used in the study. Lambs were randomly allocated to 1 of 4 treatment groups: (1) Conscious EEG and surgical castration with no anaesthetic intervention (CON; n = 4); (2) Conscious EEG and surgical castration with pre-operative applied intra-testicular lignocaine injection (CON + LIG; n = 4); (3) surgical castration under minimal anaesthesia (MAM; n = 4); (4) and surgical castration with pre-operative lignocaine injection (2 mL lignocaine hydrochloride 20 mg/mL, under minimal anaesthesia (MAM + LIG; n = 4). Distinct differences in the EEG parameters Ptot, F50 and F95 between pre-and post-castration in conscious lambs were demonstrated in this study (p < 0.01). Further, CON and CON + LIG treatments were distinguishable using F50 and F95 measures (p = 0.02, p = 0.04, respectively). Significant changes in the EEG output of MAM animals were identified pre- to post-castration (p < 0.01). The EEG output of MAM and MAM + LIG were similar. EEG was successful in differentiating lambs treated with pain relief in a conscious state after castration by examining F50 and F95, which may suggest the suitability of conscious EEG pain measurement.